In defence of duelling


Operation Trident, to quote its website, is “an anti-gun crime operation that was set up in 1998 to help bring an end to a spate of shootings and murders among young, black Londoners”. Despite it being in effect for 12 years, on the 13 April Agnes Sina-Inakoju, aged 16, was shot by mistake in the neck and subsequently died. The current approach towards gang crime is evidently not working and conventional logic is equally at fault. What is clear is that a radical new approach is necessary. Conventional logic would increase CCTV or place ASBOs on people, a totalitarian solution that has failed, where a liberal one may succeed.

Much violence is based on a desire for respect and in reaction to perceived slurs in gang dominated sections of society. Outside these gangs the same problems are dealt with entirely differently, however this was not always the case. Medieval knights, noblemen and royals would do anything to be seen as courageous and to preserve their honour, and as is the case with modern city gangs were prepared to die defending that image. The system that was established is that of duelling.

Strict rules were in place for how grievances should be redressed. These came in a variety of forms subject to locality, ranging from the Lex Alamannorum dated 712-730 AD to The Code of Honor; or Rules for the Government of Principals and Seconds in Dueling published in 1838 America. All duels would be fought in isolated locations, which would in the tragic case above have saved the life of one 16 year old girl and countless more. Before a duel could take place an apology or redress would be sought, both by the parties involved and by neutral third parties, again, likely to save lives lost in vain to misunderstandings.

It ought to be a right that people can do with their body exactly as they wish. The UK courts do not appreciate this as the case of R v Brown [1994] illustrates, however, one can risk death participating in boxing, a conflict fought one to one. It seems logical that by legalising duels that are properly organised, after arbitration has been tried and other means of redress dismissed, many aimless deaths could be avoided as well as increasing individuals’ liberties to engage as they wish in regards to their actions, thus increasing their liberty.

Jamie Brooke is the winner of the 2010 Young Writer on Liberty.